Praise for Fast Food, Fast Track "A fine ethnography with both theoretical and advocative significance, representing the best qualitative sociology." — Choice "Explores the intimate realities and behind-the-scenes exchanges of a multiethnic work force serving the typical American meal. Through a lively narrative and insightful stories, Jennifer Parker Talwar gives a full sense of what it's like to live in both a global economy and a local culture." —Sharon Zukin, author of The Cultures of Cities No longer just pocket money for American teens, wages paid by multinational fast-food chains are going to a new generation of order-takers, burger-flippers, and basket-fryers—newly arrived immigrants hailing from China, the Caribbean, Latin America, and India, a colorful sea of faces has taken its place behind one of the most ubiquitous American business institutions—the fast-food counter. They have become a vital link between the growing service sector in our cities' ethnic enclaves and the multi-billion dollar global fast-food industry. For four years, sociologist Jennifer Parker Talwar went behind the counter herself and listened to immigrant fast-food workers in New York City's ethnic communities. They talked about balancing their low-paying jobs and monotonous daily reality with keeping the faith that these very jobs could be the first step on the path to the American Dream. In this original and compelling work of ethnography, Talwar shows that contrary to those arguing that the fast-food industry only represents an increasing homogenization of the American workforce, fast-food chains in immigrant communities must and do adapt to their surroundings.
Table of Contents
Searching for the American Dream -- It's in the Neighborhood: Race, Place, and the Importance of Culture -- Word of Mouth and Getting Your Foot in the Door: Qualifications, Recruitment, and the Path to a Fast Food Job -- Day Off, Nothing! The Work's Got to Be Done: Flexibility and Work Time -- Pop-o-matic Grills and Redefining Skill: Technologies and Divisions of Labor -- It's Hard to Get These kids to Smile: Managing the Fast Food Personality -- Problems on the United Nations Team: Ethnic Conflicts and Interactions -- Up the Ladder or Down: A Question of Mobility -- Flipping Burgers in a Melting Pot? Looking Ahead to a More Multicultural Society -- Appendix A: The Respondents